December 16th, 2018
November 6, 2005
Abigail Squibnocket Marbles
I took this shot in our basement studio in Maine while photographing Dan for his ski pass. Our cat Abbie wandered in to see what was going on, and he scooped her up. She'd been with us for just over a year and he was the only one she would let hold her for more than a few seconds.
When Dan was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in June of 2004, we had to decide where to go for treatment. We were used to living in nature, in the mountains of Colorado, and knew we'd be miserable staying in a big city like Los Angeles or Denver, so we decided to get treated at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, only five hours from the house we were building in Maine. The house was slated for completion in August and we thought it would be good to have the distraction of working on it in between trips to Boston. Once the decision was made we moved quickly, making an appointment for June 14th. Throwing clothes into our suitcases, we left the ranch in Colorado and headed for Albuquerque airport.
Summer is high season in Maine so vacation rentals were few and far between as we were waiting for the house to be finished. Each week we moved to a different rental, staying on the boat when none were available. One day, after the workmen had all gone home, we went to wander the job site and as we approached the house a calico cat dashed out of a side door and into the woods. While we were busy with appointments, moving from rental to rental, and focusing on Dan's PSA numbers, she was surviving on field mice and scraps left by workmen in the dumpster.
We moved in on October 1st. The house wasn't completely finished, so we woke early each morning to the sound of hammers and drills, but we were happy to be sleeping in our own bed each night. Each day we saw the calico cat wandering the edge of the woods and I started calling her and tossing scraps to her until she would take them from my hand. Then one day I bought some fresh crab meat and lured her into the house with it, leaving the door open so she wouldn't feel trapped. She followed me into the living room, where Dan was quietly waiting on the couch, and we watched her explore and sniff as we sipped our coffee and softly talked to her. That night she slept on our bed. Dan always came up with the best cat names, and he dubbed her"Abigail Squibnocket Marbles."
The Red Skates
What a cold Maine winter that was! Dan had read about these skates that you could clamp your cross country boots into, and nothing would do but for him to get a pair and try them out. Never mind that he hadn't skated in 40 years, or that he had cancer in his bones, making them very fragile; the Swede in him just couldn't resist a new winter sport experience.
UPS delivered the package after dark and, pulling the red and silver skates from their box, Dan hurried upstairs for socks and boots. As promised in the catalogue, the skates fitted securely to the boots. Too excited to wait for daylight, Dan wanted to try them out right away. It was literally freezing outside and I wanted to stay home, warm and cozy, but I knew I'd be consumed with worry the whole time he was gone if he went by himself, so we bundled up and got into the car.
We drove to Stonington, where someone had created an outdoor skating rink in the baseball field across from the community center by making a frame of wooden planks, laying plastic tarps over it, and then filling it with water which quickly froze solid.
I parked the car with the headlights on the homemade ice rink and off Dan went. He was shaky at first, and I held my breath and watched through my fingers. I didn't worry when he went skiing; he was a great skier and snow is generally more forgiving than ice, but he hadn't skated since he was a kid and the ice was hard as rock. I could see he was enjoying himself though, all thoughts of cancer far, far away as he worked to make his strides longer and smoother. I zipped up my jacket, rolled the window down, and turned the radio on, cranking classic rock into the icy air. A big smile lit his face up as he continued around and around, my beautiful music man etching circular grooves into the silver earth under a clear, starlit sky.
A few days later we noticed a father and his little boy skating in the cove near our house. Because we spent winters in Colorado, we hadn't been in Maine when the salt marsh had frozen over before. It seemed both fortuitous and magical. Our carpenter friend Bryan made a sturdy little bench to sit on to get his own skates off and on, and set it on the ice. On the afternoon of January 17th, as Dan sat on the bench and attached the skates to his boots, I photographed the vegetation beneath the ice, frozen in place while reaching for the sun.
Dan began skating, reveling in the big expanse of ice. As he circled with increasing sureness and speed I bit my tongue, taking pictures and trying to just let him enjoy himself, but when he came back around from a long wide circle he leaned forward into a racers stance and smiled mischievously as he started picking up speed and heading right for me. I couldn't help myself, "Dan, be careful," I pleaded from behind the camera. With a SCRITCH of ice he pulled up in front of me and threw his arms out in a goofy "TA DA!"
Every now and then he would sit on Bryan's bench to catch his breath and then he'd be off again. He skated that day until the sun went down, happy as always to be gliding over water with the sun and wind in his face.
The Ice Storm
by Dan Fogelberg
One cold December weeknight , my brothers and I sat huddled with our faces near the frosty windows, looking out with wonder as a winter storm shook the night and coated everything with a sharp jacket of glittering ice; a storm so violent, it rattled the glass and pelted the doors like jackhammers and blew whole branches from the leafless trees. Even our parents faces were drawn with concern and anxious tension as the very sky seemed to shatter and tear into a million tiny shards. The streets were empty of cars and people and beneath the isolated streetlights wild shadows skittered and danced like witches at a coven. The town came to a standstill, awestruck, its populace driven to their sheltering houses and flickering fires by a furious nature venting her wrath across the barren Midwest. Slowly, barely perceptively, as we watched the night deepen, the sleet and hard ice gradually became a driving snow as the temperature lowered. The winds began to diminish and the specter of the fearful storm softened into a gentle snowfall. Our parents nerves relaxed and we were sent to bed, happily expecting the announcements of school closings the next morning.
We awoke to a wonderland beyond our wildest imaginings - a world tangled in wondrously beautiful ice; the trees shining and bending under the weight, the bushes and hedges standing motionless like petrified glass sculptures, the curbs and sidewalks looking like some marvelous Norse fairyland, and the streets lying vacant and inaccessible beneath a half inch of perfectly smooth ice. Skating ice! Could it be? Would it melt before we could try it out?
Three disheveled boys tumbled out of bed and flew down to the kitchen where the radio was reporting a snarl of traffic accidents and power outages. City officials urged citizens to stay indoors and to drive only in emergencies. Schools would remain open but students were not required to attend unless they lived nearby and could walk to and from classes. We lived approximately two miles from school and were accustomed to walking but today who could walk?
Today we would skate to school!
I was so excited that I could barely swallow my bowl of steaming, buttery oatmeal or wait for my mother to finish packing my lunch. Bundled up to my eyes, removing my mittens from the hot air register where they’d been left the night before to dry, I hurriedly laced up clumsy brown hockey skates and stepped out onto the front porch. The bitter, crackling air rushed into my lungs and sinuses, freezing the the small hairs lining my nose and setting my blood to pumping, my eyes to watering. At first my feet moved tentatively towards the porch steps and after a careful descent, found the driveway where I caught sight of my brother Peter whizzing and twirling like a speed skater down the glistening street. My reservations vanished, my nerves tightened and off I pushed down the steep concrete driveway, promptly to fall - smash! - on my well padded knees and elbows at the bottom. With the initial shock and pain behind me, I glided out onto the pavement, magnificently carving long arcs across the familiar terrain now rendered so utterly different and magical by its icy mantle.
Squeals of laughter greeted me from the end of the block and I saw a group of friends testing out the newly formed playground and inventing all sorts of wonderful new games. The world had been deserted by the adults, the few who did venture out to collect the newspaper or sweep the walk fell ludicrously on their backsides and clambered back indoors, muttering profanities under their frigid breaths, and now belonged to the children. What heady abandon in each reddened face! What unfettered glee in each shivering motion! The world was ours! Joyfully, we skated to school on the streets we had walked so often, engaging in personal or collective dogfights and jousts along the way, laughing at the dogs’ attempts to keep up. Up and down the streets and drives, every one a new challenge, every one an adventure. Across the vast parking lot of the supermarket, cleared of snow and just begging to be the sight of our neighborhood Winter Olympics; down rough gravelly alleys that grabbed at our skates and made us fall; along the peaceful sidewalks; through forests of blown glass; on busy thoroghfares where traffic usually hustled and rushed and, finally, to school.
We clumped through the hallways and into the classrooms and sat stocking footed at our wooden desks as our gloves, hats, coats and mufflers lined the radiators and littered the floors. All talk was of the storm and skating and play and after several unruly hours the teachers decided to let the few students who had attended leave.
We spent the afternoon racing around the vacant lot behind the Episcopal church, practicing our turns and pirouettes. We held trial heats and quick sprints and hockey games and long arduous endurance races. We performed graceful ballets and imitated our Olympic heroes and heroines. We hitched rides on the bumpers of the few unsuspecting cars that ventured past. We bruised elbows and twisted ankles and cursed and got to our feet again. We skated until it felt like the blades were attached directly to the soles of our feet.
And we skated some more. After dark, we skated within the confines of the spots the streetlights created and were allowed to stay out later than usual.
By the next morning the ice was almost gone; the town returned to normal and the grownups regained control. We walked to school again and the cars filled the streets and highways as they had before. The storm was soon forgotten, as storms always seem to be, and the magic of that day faded from all but a few memories. But for me, the magic lingered and if I had ever doubted that magic exists, I could no longer. Magic had spent the day with me.
Wishing you and yours a magical winter,